Food: Breakfast of Champions
I, for one, could not live without food - literally. Just as the great Hippocrates once declared, “Let food be my medicine,” so do I contend that food is one of the marvels of the human body. Although its nutrient
components are microscopic, its value, psychologically and physiologically, far surpasses anything that modern science can create.
So, perhaps you didn’t know that a pineapple is the international symbol of hospitality, or that champagne contains 49 million bubbles in a bottle, and has a pressure three times that of a car tire (arrowscientific.com). Regardless of these facts, it does not take a genius to grasp that the customs and traditions associated with food also have a prominent soothing effect on the human body. Mealtime is the root of family interaction, and something as routine as sharing a meal with family can have a positive influence upon a child’s upbringing. This aspect of food is found all over the world; in fact, in Spanish a friend is a compañero – a person with whom you “break bread.” In addition, food is unique in that it arouses each of the five senses, which in turn psychologically stimulates our well-being and connection with each other. Take a moment to remember the sounds and smells of Grandma's kitchen at Christmas. Can you remember the taste of a fresh-baked pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day? The memories and reflections associated with food bring about a subtle healing that connects individuals and socially bonds them to their community.
On the other hand, the physiological benefits of food are also numerous. From a medicinal standpoint, Hippocrates is dead right - food can actually help to prevent illnesses related to nutrient deficiency. Take, for instance, scurvy. Well-known on the sailing ships of the 16th century, this diet-related illness left sailors with bleeding gums, tooth loss, swollen ankles and wrists, and slow-healing wounds. Eventually, the captains deduced that limes and citrus fruits would ward off the nasty side effects, and it became mandatory for all ships to carry a basket of fruit for long-distance voyages. Not until the 20th century did modern scientists finally crack the mystery of the disease, the earlier sailors were deficient in vitamin C. This essential nutrient, as the ship captains had discovered earlier, was found in abundance in fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, strawberries, and red peppers. Thus, when the ships carried their own supply of fruits, they could avoid this easily-preventable disease. Why die from something as banal as a nutrient-deficiency when you could be eaten by a shark, or murdered by a cannibalistic tribe?
However, as is the case with pharmaceutical drugs, one must be careful with food. Too much can be deadly! An excessive intake of chocolate, over a long period of time, can dull the neurotransmitter receptors in one’s brain, and can lead to problems such as overeating and obesity. According to Bread+Butter.com, “large doses of coffee can be lethal. Ten grams, or 100 cups over 4 hours, can kill the average human.” Arrowscientific.com notes that apple seeds, believe it or not, contain cyanide - however, simply eating one or two seeds will not immediately kill an individual. These common food items, when abused, can cause an adverse reaction in the body. Such is the price to pay for one’s ignorance...or stupidity.
Food is not only a necessity. It also strengthens our bodies, in some cases, better than any man-made medicine. Eating healthy, balanced meals help the body to fight off chronic diseases, such as heart disease or stroke, as well as to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Taken together, this information partially confirms Hippocrates' contention that food can act as medicine for our bodies. Had this visonary doctor and philosopher had added a caviat regarding moderation, his words would have been all the more powerful.